Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ingredients Exposed #1: Chemical Nasties

*This image is purely for illustration purposes, and I'm not suggesting that any/all of the products shown contain any or all of the chemicals below!

Parabens. Sulphates. Mineral Oil. We're constantly being told to avoid all manner of  'nasty' skincare ingredients, and I, for one, have bought right into it, my skincare collection now being almost entirely made up of natural and organic products. However, when it comes to makeup, giving such additions the swerve can pose much more of a challenge, so I thought it was about time we had a closer look at what exactly we are trying to avoid, and why we should (or shouldn't?) be doing so.

This is going to be a two part series, because despite what we are generally led to believe, natural skincare does have its pitfalls too, as I've recently discovered. But today it's all about those chemical critters, so read on for Part 1.

Parabens are a group of compounds used as preservatives, to prevent bacteria, fungus and other delights from taking hold and ruining whatever it is you've spent your hard-earned cash on.
Besides cosmetics, they are also found in pharmaceuticals, and even food products, so even the most vigilant among us would be hard pushed to eliminate them from their lifestyle completely. 
So, what is it that's so terrible about parabens? Well, studies have shown that they are able to mimic the hormone oestrogen, which is already known to have links to female cancers such as ovarian and breast cancer. In fact, tests run on breast tumours have actually confirmed the presence of parabens. While there is no solid evidence that there is a link between the two, it has certainly made me think twice about what I'm putting on my face, and while I often think I'm doing well by leaving it out of my skincare, it scares me a little bit to think that I'm then plastering it on anyway in the form of foundation, blush and all kinds of other cosmetics.

Sulphates, again, are found in countless beauty products, the most common of those being shampoos and foaming cleansers. You know that lovely thick lather you get when you wash your hair? That's all down to Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and so is the foam from gel cleansers, which are often used by the oilier-skinned among us to achieve a squeaky-clean visage. Sulphates help water and oil to mix, enabling them to effectively lift dirt, oil and impurities and wash them away.
There is a common mis-conception that without bubbles, you're not getting the same deep clean. But actually, the addition of sulphates only means that you are stripping your skin of its natural oils and leaving it dry and dehydrated (hence the afore-mentioned squeaky-clean feeling). Now I know that some of you will be thinking that that's exactly what you want, but it's not - your skin does require a certain amount of the natural oils it produces, and if you take them away then it's only going to go into overdrive trying to replenish what it has lost.
The main concern with sulphates is the fact that they are quite strong irritants. If you get them in your eyes then you'll know about it! Those of you with sensitive skin are better off avoiding these where possible, and if you've got oily skin then why not try an oil cleanser if you haven't already? If you haven't already heard, they are extremely effective at removing grime and dirt from your pores, and contrary to the belief that they'll leave your skin even oilier, they are actually more likely to leave it feeling clean, plump and hydrated.


Mineral Oil is an inexpensive carrier oil, used to bulk out a large number of beauty products such as cleansers and serums. A by-product of the distilation of gasoline from crude oil (doesn't that sound appealing!? Mmm, I want to rub it all over my face....), it's clear, has no scent and won't spoil or go off.
Needless to say, it's a penny-pinching option for many of the big beauty brands out there who want to maximise their profits and minimise their costs.
So, what's the problem with mineral oil? Well, the skin has a pretty tough time trying to absorb it, resulting in a film being left over the skin which will then inevitably clog up pores, often resulting in breakouts. And as if that wasn't enough, when it is eventually absorbed, it passes through the liver and intestinal tract, mopping up any fat-soluble vitamins floating in its path and essentially robbing the body of much-needed nutrients. Lovely jubbly.
I don't know about you, but I'd never considered the direct impact of the products I was using on the outside of my body on the inner workings of it until recently, and frankly it's quite scary.


So, those are the three biggest baddies, or so we are told. Personally, I've always loved the idea of using natural ingredients on my skin rather than scary man-made chemicals, and the evidence is certainly enough to provide most of us with a push in the right direction. However, I will say that nowadays, it seems that pretty much everything has been linked to cancer or some other ailment in some form or other, so it's difficult to know where the truth really lies. Short of stopping breathing, it's impossible to completely avoid all the things we are being told to, and all we can do is inform ourselves and make the choices that we feel are right for us as individuals.

Next up, I'll be talking about some of the delicious-sounding natural ingredients often associated with skincare, and how they, too, can have a slightly unpleasant side.


33 comments:

  1. Great post Mel! I'm really looking forward to part 2. I have lots of allergies & am working on a post highlighting the most commonly found allergens in products as I often find cosmetic staff think that because their products are 'natural' or 'hypoallergenic' they will not cause a reaction!

    I'd love it if you would check my post out when it is finished & let me know what you think!

    Tania x

    www.taniad.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. I definitely will do Tania :)
      Very true - especially if they themselves haven't had any problems with their skin - at the end of the day, they just want to sell, and while I doubt they'd push anything on you that they knew full well wouldn't work for you, they might underestimate the risks for those with really sensitive skin. xx

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  2. Fab post!! A very interesting read! It really does make you wonder!

    Jen xxx

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  3. Brilliant post. I had no idea about much of this. I've learnt something new today and shall be reading and researching alot more before i buy now.

    Jules @Flabbyface

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    1. Thank you, really glad this was of some use to you, I'll be talking about some good natural brands in part two :)xx

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  4. Have you read this?

    http://swiftcraftymonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/much-maligned-ingredients-mineral-oil_09.html

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  5. Great post Mel. I try as much as I can to lean towards natural skincare products but it is a bit of a minefield out there x

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    1. Thank you Kay, it really is, isn't it? Especially given that if something doesn't have nasty chemicals in it then it's quite likey to have something else in it that mightn't work for your skin xx

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  6. Thanks for this! I try to buy 'clean' products, but it can be hard, especially with make up -skincare is miles ahead of most cosmetic brands. xx

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    1. Yes, exactly - unfortunately I can't say any of my cosmetics are free of the 'nasties', which perhaps defeats the object of eliminating them from my skincare. Fingers crossed for some advances in that area very soon xx

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  7. Amazing post all them ingredients confuse me when buying products so I'm glad to see ur post explains them all for us

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  8. Great post! I actively avoid mineral oil in facial products as it breaks me out. It's so called paraffin liquidium, which is another great way to confuse us all! I've also decided that once my current shampoo/conditioner runs out I'm going to use a SLS free one. I'm not as savvy on parabens, but they really don't sound good do they :s xx

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    1. They don't. I must admit that while I tend to go all natural for skincare, I still haven't gone sulphate free on shampoo, so let me know if you find any good ones. xx

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  9. Such a great post, would be really interested to see a post featuring some brands that contain (or do not contain) those products? :) xx

    Raves 'nd Ramblings
    I'm also on bloglovin'.

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    1. Thanks lovely, I'll definitely be talking about some of my favourite natural brands in part two:)xx

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  10. Such an awesome post, I think more people need to be aware of this. And it's seriously so hard to find makeup and skin care products that don't contain those chemicals! xo

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    1. Thank you Lauren, it's not easy is it!? I'll be talking about some of my favourite natural brands in part two, none of which contain any of the above :)xx

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  11. Hi Mel! Found this post via Luchessa's post (http://luchessa.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/the-weekly-round-up/). I'm glad that you are delving into the realities and risks of certain cosmetic ingredients. It's a really confusing world! And one that I am still wading my way through and trying to figure things out. As you said, "short of stopping breathing" just about anything can be toxic to your body! Sometimes though, certain ingredients can be hyped up to be bad, and so maybe you'll buy something that's "paraben-free" but then have no idea that they've substituted something far more dangerous in lieu of parabens. I'm of the opinion that the more natural the ingredients, the safer you are. But I also agree with you, even the word "natural" can have its unpleasant realities. Looking forward to your next post!

    -Kareen
    http://www.ziba-blog.com

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    1. Hi Ziba, thanks for your comment. This is so true, and sometimes it can seem like a bit of a minefield when it comes to buying beauty products! Since writing this post, I've decided to extend the series, as I feel that there is more to be said about other ingredients, especially those that, as you say, replace the 'nasties' xx

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  12. amazing post - very informative. Thanks for sharing. X

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  13. Great post, hun! Thanks for sharing! Unfortunately there're still lots of products contain these chemical stuffs whether it's makeup, skincare, haircare, bodycare... and some of them somehow work wonders than natural products (plus price wise, they're usually on the expensive side) and some articles mention that certain type of parabens aren't so harmful.. hhmm.. I think there'll be more arguments and reserach about this thing.. ^_^

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    1. Yep, it's definitely not something that's clear cut. It's really hardto know what the best choices are, but I think as long as we educate ourselves as well as we can then that's the best thing we can do for ourselves xx

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  14. This is a really interesting post, thank you so much for sharing!
    My eczema's got a lot worse recently so I've been trying to cut out these three ingredients but they're everywhere! It's hard to find alternatives sometimes that do a good job and aren't ridiculously expensive.

    Jesss xo

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    1. I can imagine, actually having to cut them out as opposed to choosing to must be really difficult, as things are always slipping through the net. I know of a few fantastic natural brands if you are unsure xx

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  15. Really informative post, I'm conscious of what's in my products, but even I hadn't heard of mineral oil! I've touched upon the importance of being vigilant about skincare, but will link to this post of yours as it's really clear and well written :)
    Scarlett x

    velvetmintlifestyle.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks lovely, glad it's been helpful:)xx

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  16. I have just installed iStripper, and now I enjoy having the best virtual strippers on my desktop.

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